StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen

Besides engaging with what authors and performers have created through audiobooks, the sound of storytelling extends to creating and listening to family stories, neighborhood stories, captured memories of unwritten, and otherwise unscripted, events, and conversations. The work of StoryCorps addresses this by providing both structure for and preservation of such recordings. Recordings made in StoryCorps booths, which pop up around the country on well publicized schedules, are accepted by the Library of Congress as part of the American archives of cultural and popular history. StoryCorps has won a variety of humanities distinctions, including the Peabody Award (2007).

For several years, StoryCorps has been promoting The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a guided opportunity for those gathered with multiple generations to celebrate the holiday. With the goal of creating “a culture of listening,” this effort points directly to the power of listening in communication, intergenerational honor, and understanding. Directions are specific, simple to follow, and require virtually nothing to attain satisfying results. The event is suggested for families, classes of all ages, and neighborhood gathering places.

For those interested in finding and hearing voices of those who have been involved in, or witnessed, such events as war, 9/11, coming out experiences, and even memory loss, the site (as well as the Library of Congress) puts listeners in touch immediately with authentic voices of experience. Recordings stored on the site are short, recorded with clarity, and include sufficient context to make the listening immediate and attention-getting.

For those who can’t avail themselves of StoryCorps’ visiting booths and staff, the site also offers DIY help. Because the interviewing aspect is just one element, there are good directions here for programming with listening to the completed recording as the goal.

With ten days before that long weekend in which many find themselves among the near-strangers of extended family, or relatively alone and with some extra time, the abundance of StoryCorps is truly something for which all Americans can give thanks.